Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 2 of the 2020 French Open.
It’s cold outside in Paris.
At the time we’re writing this, it’s just a little before 3pm local time in Paris and Google tells us that it’s currently 13°C outside—or 56°F for our American readers.
This is what we would call sweater weather, because you can’t really stand outside much if you’re not doing anything and you’re not actually dressed for the cold, or chilly, weather. So, you wear a sweater.
Which means that this year, the 2020 Roland-Garros tournament, this beacon of clay court tennis that’s typically played during the dead heat of late spring and early summer, is a fall staple. And, most importantly here, it’s a frustratingly cold one if you ask Victoria Azarenka and Danka Kovinic, who halted their first round match on Court Suzanne Lenglen and leave the court on Day 1 because it was just too dang cold.
Here’s the part where you might wonder why this is such a big deal, that surely the difference of a few degrees can’t be so major that they force professional tennis players, people who’ve played this sport their entire lives, to stop playing.
We would counter with the fact that the weather records show that on May 27, 2020 it was 27°C in Paris, which is equivalent to 80°F. That’s actually a fairly decent and meaningful difference, wouldn’t you say? At 27°C, you’re outside wearing shorts and a polo shirt, probably eating ice cream with your loved ones; but you’re not doing this at 13°C.
Put it another way: remember the annual Paris Masters 1000 that’s held in late October indoors at the AccorHotels Arena? Well, a quick Google search again tells us that on October 26, 2019, it was 20°C (or 68°F) outside in Paris for the first day of the Masters event. Warm enough, right? It went down to 13°C (or 55°F) by day 3—the very same temperature that’s a problem for day 1 action of the 2020 French Open where they play tennis outside.
Of course, we’re not writing all of this to empathize with the dilemma of the Roland-Garros organizers. After all, their cavalier attitude throughout the pandemic, where they unilaterally decided to postpone the event to these two weeks with no regard to how anyone else in tennis felt about it, bears pretty much the entirety of the responsibility of these weather difficulties.
Anyway, here are our three choices for the matches to keep a close eye on for day 2. (To see the rest of the schedule, click here.)
Court Philippe Chatrier: Dominic Thiem  vs Marin Cilic (Second match)
This one is probably the true highlight of the day despite the fact that Marin Cilic’s game is ultimately much more dangerous on other playing surfaces than clay courts. But if the Croatian isn’t enough for you to tune in, then maybe you’d like to watch the first match of the rest of the career of tennis’s newly anointed king, Dominic Thiem?
Court Philippe Chatrier: Serena Williams  vs Kristie Ahn (Third match)
Look, we’ll probably have plenty of occasions to highlight Serena Williams’s play over the next two weeks. For now, let’s just mention that we truly hope that this French Open will finally be the one when the American gets her long-awaited 24th major title.
Court Philippe Chatrier: Rafael Nadal  vs Egor Gerasimov (Fourth match)
Every match Rafael Nadal plays on clay court is must-see tv. We always know who will win, but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling.
Nadal has won 438 of the 478 clay court matches he has played in his career.
— The Big 3 (@Big3Tennis) September 26, 2020
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG